Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Pesto

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Cappellini with Pesto & Pine Nuts 2 6-13Prep 10 mins   Cook 10 mins   Eat 20 mins

Do you want an easy weeknight supper dish?  This is it. Truly “Fresh Food in a Flash” and super yummy on top of it. Cappellini (Angel Hair Pasta) with Fresh Tomatoes, Pesto and Pine Nuts.  The farmers markets (or if you’re lucky, your garden) are bursting with fresh grape/cherry tomatoes and fresh basil right now.  Here’s your opportunity to put them to good use.

Slice tomatoes to release their sweet juices into the pasta.

Slice tomatoes to release their sweet juices into the pasta.

Make up the pesto in a food processor or blender, which will take 1-5 minutes, depending on how many times you’ve done it.  Slice the miniature tomatoes in half to expose their sweet juices, set out some good ground parmesan cheese and cook up the pasta.  I prefer ground to the popular shredded parmesan in use today, because the ground parmesan really becomes part of the sauce, instead of sitting on top of your dish.

When you're cooking for a crowd, use spaghetti instead of cappellini.

When you’re cooking for a crowd, use spaghetti instead of cappellini.

This pasta dish is best with Cappellini, aka Angel Hair pasta, but if you’re making it for a crowd like I did at our June Knife Skills class, use spaghetti or you will be sorry.  Sorry, because the cappellini, which you want cooked al dente, cooks up ultra fast and with two pounds or more of pasta, you will have a big mess on your hands.

I first tasted this dish…what is now an Italian turned American Classic – Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Pesto & Pine Nuts at one of the original California cuisine restaurants on Melrose Avenue in mid-town Los Angeles at least 20 years ago.  I wish I could remember the name, but I do remember the taste sensation I experienced.  I immediately tried to create the dish at home.  There was no cappellini for sale in the supermarket here in Southern California, so I bought “fideo” a thin Spanish noodle used in Mexican noodle dishes.  The noodles were wound up, dried and packaged.  I remember trying to unwind them in the pot, but they somehow managed to stick together and my “Cappellini” was not so angel-like.

My cooking has come a long way since those days and this dish has always been part of my repertoire, improving along the way.  With all the fresh ingredients easily available, this dish can be made easily in a flash.  First prep your basil leaves.  Don’t be fussy about it. You can leave the stems on unless they are hard or bulky.  Rinse them and spin them fairly dry in your salad spinner.

Fresh made pesto - garlic, basil, pine nuts and olive oil.

Fresh made pesto – garlic, basil, pine nuts and olive oil.

Making pesto is a simple process, once you get the hang of it.  Start with a dry food processor bowl.  Add the garlic and process until the bits of garlic end up all over the bowl.  Add the cleaned basil leaves and the pine nuts.  Process until it’s all mixed together, then stream in some olive oil from the top of the processor until the mixture well, looks like pesto.  That’s it!  Mix it into your hot pasta, top with your sliced tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, ground parmesan and serve.  Fresh Food in a Flash.

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Cappellini with Fresh Tomatoes, Pesto and Pine Nuts

  • salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup  packed basil leaves, washed, spun or towel dried.  (Remove flowers, but you can leave the smaller stems
  • 2 Tbs pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Boil water for pasta.  Add 2 tsp salt to water.

2. Place garlic in food processor.  Pulse until minced.  Add basil and pine nuts.  Process until all ingredients are mixed and against edge of bowl.  Then thru the tube, WHILE MOTOR IS RUNNING, pour in olive oil in slow stream until a sauce begins to form.  You will need to open processor midway to scrape sides of bowl and push ingredients back to center.  That’s it!  Fresh pesto in a minute.

3. Halve or quarter cherry or grape tomatoes so that they are a similar bite size.  Also toast the pine nuts. Begin to boil pasta.  Cappellini will cook in a flash, so watch it and have other ingredients ready.

4. When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and immediately toss with pesto. Add more olive oil or pasta water to coat the strands. Add the tomatoes and toss.  Divide pasta among plates. Top with the tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Serve.

Servings: 6   481 calories per serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes   Cooking Time: 10 minutes   Total Time: 20 minutes

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